Politics

Entries related to things political.

Grant Ward Gets Touched by An Angel on Inauguration Day: A Meta-analysis of Gavin Stone

It is late Thursday evening, just over twelve hours until the forty-fifth President of the United States is sworn in. I am sitting in a movie complex in a shopping mall in New England with my fifteen year old daughter. I can’t remember what the last movie was that I saw in a movie theatre. Most of the great old art houses showing Kurasawa, Truffaut, Tarkovsky, and Wenders are gone. There is too much gratuitous violence and too little depth for me in most of the movies today.

Earlier this evening, I read a few of my poems at The Ghostlight Project event at a community television station studio, expressing hope that theatre, the arts, could remain a light, a beacon for diversity, in these troubled times.

I am in my late fifties, still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring becoming an Episcopal priest. I believe it is what I am supposed to do, but the committee that accepts people into the ordination process don’t seem to think so.

My daughter is bright but struggles with her health. She is politically active and especially concerned for women’s rights and gay rights. She loves Brett Dalton and has been talking about this film since it was announced, and so here we are, at one of the first showings.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone was exactly what I expected. It is formulaic, cliché-filled, predictable, and probably a really important film to see right about now. It is the sort of film that your aunt, who always tells you she is praying for you hopes you will go to. Her comments about praying for you has always made you feel a bit uncomfortable. God isn’t really something you talk about in the twenty-first century, but you know she is kind. She loves you and that she will sit through hours of binge watching Touched by an Angel, or Hallmark Holiday Specials with you as you eat ice cream and try to mend a broken heart.

Not only is the movie formulaic, cliché-filled, and predictable, but it seems like the backstory is as well; some Christian writers and producers getting together to make a movie, hoping to win a few converts to Christ. It hits all the right notes for the conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical crowd. A washed-up Hollywood elite coming to know God through having to do community service. A pastor who is kind, caring, and fixes the hot water heater in the church, not one of these celebrity preachers. The pastor’s daughter, who learns a little bit about grace and forgiveness herself after having been hurt by yet another person in the entertainment industry, and the hero’s reconciliation with the father, but his own father, as well as our Heavenly Father.

The cast is as diverse as nineteen-fifties middle America. There is a black person somewhere in the crowd, and perhaps some Asians or Latinos. If there is a gay person, they are so far in the closet you cannot see them. The references to sexuality are minimal. The stars don’t have sex. The only direct reference is recounting the scene of the woman caught in adultery.

Likewise, the only violence is in the re-enactment of the Crucifixion.

So why should you go see this movie now? Don’t go, to criticize it. Don’t take a friend to try and convert them. Don’t go for the narrative. Go for the meta-narrative, for the movie’s place in the twenty-first century. Take a friend who is seeking Christian Reconstructionism and another who is seeking Moral Revival. Take a friend who has been reading Foucault and Judith Butler.
Gavin Stone tells the folks at the church that a key to acting is listening. It is a message that we all need to listen to. The pastor’s daughter tells Gavin about the importance of humility. That is another message all of us, especially our newly elected leaders, need to listen to.

I am writing this on inauguration day. A lot of people are concerned about what is in store for America over the coming four years. I am actually feeling somewhat optimistic. Actors are speaking up at theatres. Women are marching. The rebellion against political correctness is now being seen for what it is, a lame excuse for self-centered rudeness.

Find someone different from yourself to listen to. You can start by going to see The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

A New Journey

This week, I am setting out on a new journey. I am taking the online class English Spirituality and Mysticism at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It is part of a larger journey of trying to make sense out of my experience of God at the ISM Poetry Conference: “Love bade me welcome”, which in turn is part of the larger journey of trying to find God’s will and meaning for my life.

One of the texts for this course is The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination by Esther de Waal. I’ve only read the introduction and the first chapter so far, but I’m greatly enjoying it, and thinking about how it, and the course will help shape my journeys. One quote from chapter 1, which is entitled Journeying puts it nicely into context, “The whole of life itself is for them a journey from birth to death”. The chapter spends a bit of time talking about journey prayers and journey blessings, spending a fair amount of time on St. Patrick’s Breastplate which I have always loved.

I write this all in the context of many journeys going on. Donald Trump’s journey to the Presidency. The journey of many friends to protests against things that President Elect Trump has said, the long foot journeys of two friends, one hiking the Appalachian Trail and another setting out to walk the Carmino de Santiago.

I pray for blessings on each journey that we all may act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Obama and Racism

Recently, a Facebook friend posted, "Michelle Obama....your husband is the most racist American there is! Elated you are all leaving the White House!". It seemed a particularly odd post. Why is it directed at the First Lady? What does it mean to call President Obama racist? What are your hopes for the coming administration?

Those who understand that racism is "Power + Prejudice" may wonder how a member of a disempowered group is considered to have power. If you are going to talk about racism, please understand what you are talking about. A good starting point is Race and Racism.

13.2% of Americans are African American, but only 8% of members of Congress are African American, and this is a historic high. Yet President Obama is the leader of the most powerful country in the world. He does have considerably more power than the average black person. So, can we consider President Obama racist?

Perhaps we need to look at the source of President Obama's power. As head of the judical branch, he cannot make laws, only enforce them. Essentially, President Obama's power comes his role in making sure that the laws of the land are enforced. Yet those who are often most vocal, calling President Obama racist are white law enforcement officials.

In fact, the person posting this is related to several white law enforcement officials and in the comments goes on to rant about "black lives matter" saying that we should be talking about "all lives matter".

Recently, I went to the funeral of this person's aunt. When I spoke with family members, I didn't say, "I'm so sorry that all people die." I said I was sorry for their loss. Likewise, when a black person dies, I will say, "black lives matter". When a police officer dies, I will say, "Blue Lives Matter". I won't tell my friends grieving the death of a police officer to say "All lives matter" instead of "Blue lives matter."

Yes, all lives do matter. The lives of Mexicans, Muslims, transgendered people, women, black people, and police officers. When I say the pledge of allegiance, I am focusing more and more on the final words, based on a sermon by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, "with liberty and justice FOR ALL".

Instead of calling one another names, let's work together to make sure that we really do have liberty and justice FOR ALL.

The Unexpected Rabbit

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Happy New Year. Recently, I asked my friends what they thought I should resolve for the New Year. I am facing great uncertainty this coming year, especially around my spiritual journey and our political climate. Will 2017 be a breakout year, in some unexpected way?

Kim, Fiona, and I have gotten tickets to go see Amelie when it opens on Broadway. So last night, we watched the movie. Will this be the year that I find an old tin box full of childhood keepsakes? Will it be the year that I set off to help others in my own quirky way? Will it be the year that I build up enough courage to let something truly wonderful happen to me?

I already have a wonderful marriage, a wonderful family, and a wonderful life (to bring in a different movie title), but is this the year that something gets added to that, in terms of life ambitions, the spiritual journey and the work (much more than my job), that I am to do?

I didn’t get a lot of responses to my blog post asking for suggestions, but one that did stick with me was a reference to #OneLittleWord. The starting point for me in thinking about #OneLittleWord is a blog post by Deanna Mascle whom I met through a community of connected learners. Last July, she wrote Write Your Future in #OneLittleWord.

What is my one little word? Perhaps, it stays with the blog post I wrote at the beginning of last year. Unexpected. 2016 certainly had some unexpected twists. It looks like more of the same may be in store for 2017.

Let’s hope for some unexpected joy this year as we, like Amelie, find the courage to let something truly wonderful unexpectedly happen to us this year.

Merry Complicated, Vulnerable Christmas

It is early Christmas morning, and I should be sleeping, but I’ve been woken up by our canine alarm system. Most of the time, I am not pleased about being woken up this way. It is often false alarms caused by deer or other wildlife crossing our property. However, there have been a couple occasions were our large dog has alerted us of something wrong, of something that needed attention.

This evening, there was a strange vehicle in our driveway. No, it was not a sleigh. It was dark outside, so I couldn’t get the make and model but it appeared to be a large pickup truck. When I turned on the lights, the truck pulled out of our driveway and into a neighbor’s driveway. There have been a bunch of burglaries in our town so I called the local police department which sent out a patrol.

Things have settled down now. The canine alarm system has returned to its normal detect mode, laying quietly on the couch next to me. The holiday lights are on. Everyone else seems to be snoring, but I cannot get back to sleep.

Instead, I will write about Christmas Eve. I go to Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, CT. It is a wonderful church and the Christmas Eve service was as special as always. The homily particularly struck home for me. It started off exploring the idea of God saving the word through sending an infant. If this had been suggested to a committee, the priest said, it would probably have been rejected, but God works in wonderful, unexpected ways.

As I thought about the sermon, a different verse from the Christian scriptures came to me. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. This is the behavior that Jesus modelled for us.

Another verse also came to mind. In 1 John 3:2 we find, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Usually, when I think of this verse, I think of the adult Jesus, speaking in parables, performing miracles, crucified and resurrected. I don’t think about the infant Jesus, vulnerable, needing to be fed, held, and changed.

2016 was a rough year for many of my friends. Many are very concerned about the incoming administration and how it will affect the poor, minorities, women, and other people that are supposed to be included in “Liberty and Justice FOR ALL”. They are talking about resisting, marching, and doing whatever they can. I hear that as a strong calling, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t sound like it will break the cycle of partisan hatred.

God came into this world vulnerable. Jesus conquered death by submitting to it. What if we were to become more vulnerable, instead of less vulnerable in this coming year? What if we were to admit our need to be fed, held, and changed? What if we allowed others to feed, hold, and help change us, the way we want to feed, hold, and help change others? What if, by seeking to imitate Christ, we sought to imitate the whole Christ, not only the risen Christ, but also the infant Christ? What if we found the light of Christ in our hopes and dreams, even as a small flickering light, and sought to grow that light within us into something new and unexpected?

Such an idea sounds like something that most of us would reject, especially many of my political activist friends, but it could also be one of those wonderful, unexpected ways that God could work through us in this broken world around us.

Merry Christmas.

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